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Horse injuries

Erica Louder for Progressive Cattleman Published on 29 May 2019
Craig Louder

She came barreling into the house, breathless. “Call Daddy right away. Bud is running up the lane.” Taking a gulp of air, she continues, “His saddle’s still on and is bleeding really bad and, and I think he is hurt really bad. Please hurry, call Daddy.”

That daddy she was so anxious to call was the one supposed to be riding the riderless, injured horse.  Of course, she was more worried about the horse, since, you know, daddies are invincible. He answered my phone call, apparently unaware of any issue. “I promise, I am coming – I am just walking back to Bud now,” he said. Laughing in my relief, I said, “You’ll have a long way to walk. Bud is back at the house, and Cora says he is bleeding.” 

While daddy-rancher-cowboy walked back to the house, I caught the errant horse. He was cut behind the front fetlock. When the man of the hour, who is really a veterinarian among all his other assumed titles, inspected the injury, he thought it could use a couple of stitches. We surmised that Bud caught his foot in the barbed wire while he pawed the ground in nervous agitation. He (obviously) doesn’t like to be left alone.   

It amazes me how Bud managed to get hurt all at – all he needed to do was stand still, tied to the fence post and wait patiently. I swear, if there is a barbed wire within 10 miles, a horse will get hurt. Cattle, on the other hand, could live in a literal junkyard and remain injury-free for years. Horses could learn an awful lot about injury prevention from their barnyard neighbors. 

Anyway, back to the story. Bud’s owner and veterinarian chose not to put him out completely for the stitches and just gives him a heavy dose of sedative. All seems well until that first needle goes through the hide, and Bud kicks. His hoof connects, and Craig (owner/veterinarian/amateur cowboy) flies back. I was sure we were heading to the ER. When he turned around, he was holding his upper arm and grimacing. I question if Bud really needs those stitches, but the obstinate and now wounded veterinarian insists. He gives Bud a dose of ketamine and knocks him out, all the way this time. However, on the next stitch, Bud kicks from reflex again. This time, it grazes Craig cheek and the brim of his hat. I, the official leg holder, have a mini-heart attack. When the job is finally done, Craig admits that he probably should have tied up Bud’s leg. Sounds like a rookie mistake from a veteran veterinarian. 

After a careful assessment of the injury (Craig’s not Bud’s), we decide a hospital visit is not in order, at least not yet. At day two, the arm was swollen nearly twice its size, and I keep hearing the comment, “Look at my big muscles, I am so ripped.” By day five, the arm is black, blue, yellow and red from shoulder to forearm. At day eight, he contemplates the need for a doctor’s visit because for a person who makes his living from his arm, that kind of pain is kind of a problem. At least the veterinarian in him isn’t contemplating treating himself.

At day 10, after a round of self-diagnosis with Dr. Google (apparently, he is at risk for an amputation), he sees a doctor – a real one. The doctor orders an X-ray. Turns out it is a severe bone bruise, and he should use pain relief as necessary. Come back in four weeks if it isn’t better. Nothing else they can do. Oh yeah, and Bud, at day 10, you wouldn’t even know he was injured.  

I have decided on the scale of animals most likely to hurt themselves, humans even surpass horses. I should probably rescind my previous statement of a horse’s propensity for self-injury unless I apply it to cowboys too.  end mark 

Erica Louder is a freelance writer based in Idaho.

PHOTO: Cowboy Craig and a couple of his horses stop for a drink. Photo by Erica Louder.